As many of you know, I’m working towards my graduate degree in Communication Studies. Concurrently, I also work at a university for a different graduate program where I work on the administrative side helping students with processes, forms, and even some advising. As you can imagine, I’ve learned a lot these past few years about how graduate programs work and a lot of things that may not be so obvious if you’re not in this environment.
For today’s blog post, I wanted to share a list of things you should know before applying for grad school. I want to be a resource of information when it comes to all things career. This can mean different things to different people whether you choose to go the higher education route or whether you choose to jump straight into the working world. I want to give you the best advice!
Let’s jump in.
- Ask yourself why you want a graduate degree?
My first piece of advice consists of asking yourself this question. Why do you want to pursue graduate school? I encourage you to really think it through. Is it because you don’t know what else to do? Is it because your parents are telling you to go? Is it because your career really requires it? I think these questions are important and often overlooked because grad school just sounds good on paper, but the value of it will really depend on the why? Why do you need this degree?
- Grad School is expensive!
Next, now I’m sure this is not a surprise but, you should know that grad school is expensive and will cost more than your undergrad did, so this is definitely something to consider before applying. More specifically tied to the first point, research and inform yourself of how much tuition and fees will cost at the school or schools you’re considering going to.
- Grad School is usually shorter than undergraduate studies
I feel like one thing that many students don’t realize, going from undergraduate to graduate studies is that grad school is typically not as long as undergraduate studies was. Like I mentioned above, I have worked with students for quite some time now and I feel like a lot of them think that going to grad school will take just as long as their undergraduate career did. Don’t get me wrong, it can but, it usually doesn’t. A lot of programs will take anywhere from 2-3 years to complete and in grad school everyone usually goes at their own pace depending on what else they have going on outside of school.
- The application process is not that hard
The next thing you should know is that the application process is actually not that hard. A lot of people that I come across often hold back from applying for grad school because they think that the application process is really hard. I’m here to tell you it is not. Every program is different, but if you’re afraid of the application please don’t be. If you have questions there are people who have jobs (like mine ??♀️) who are there to help. It’s as easy as asking questions. ☺️
- There IS financial aid offered for grad students
Next, let’s talk about money $$$. If you’re planning to go to grad school but need help to pay for it let me reassure you that there is usually financial help out there in one way or another. A lot of students also have this misconception that financial aid is only for undergraduate students and it’s not. I can confidently say that there is help out there! Like with all other things make sure to keep informed and research as much as possible.
- Keep an eye out for extra fees
Related to money, this one is a good one if you are planning to attend school for a specific program. Now, you might have accounted for tuition but always do some research to find out if there are additional fees associated with your specific program. I know this is where each program is definitely very different! For example, the program for which I work for, has an additional charge if you want to attend online classes. Again, make sure to do your research.
- Culminating experience?
Next, grad school is different from your undergraduate degree in that it usually involves a culminating experience. A culminating experience is usually the final experience in the program. Some programs require a final test while others give you the option to complete a thesis. It is very important that you are informed of what this will be so that you can start preparing from the very beginning.
- There is a difference between undergraduate and graduate studies
Although both degrees are considered higher education, in undergraduate studies you usually take a variety of classes and it isn’t until the very end that you start studying a more specific topic. In graduate school, you usually choose what you want to study and go deeper into learning about that subject during your program.
- Plan, plan, plan!
If you’re set on starting grad school in Fall 2021, (or sooner depending on the school), you need to start planning now! I honestly feel that the most successful students are those who plan and are prepared. This begins from the moment you start to research programs. Ask yourself questions like, how long will it take to complete? How much will it cost? What will my culminating experience be? And, how will I use my degree to grow in my career? Although things can change, it’s always better to have some sort of plan when going into grad school because once you start you’ll want your focus to be fully on the content of what you will be learning.
- Just Do It!
The last thing you need to know before applying for grad school is that it is possible! Before starting my program even though I worked at the university already (for another program) I had this misconception that it was going to be really hard! So much so, that I felt that the students who were in a program already were much different than I was. The truth is, they’re not. You can do it if it’s something that you really want. Remember, there is always help all you have to do is ask.
I hope these 10 things helped you really think about what’s to come if you decide to apply for grad school. I want to reiterate that you shouldn’t be scared. As many will tell you, time flies and before you know it you’ll be graduating. Instead of being scared (like me), take matters into your own hands and plan and prepare!
If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments below. 🙂
Until Next Time,
I am very impressed. I found a lot of informative stuff in your article. Keep it up. Excellent JOB Thx!.
Thank you for taking the time to read.